What it means to possess personal salvation
The terms saved and salvation occur 268 times in Scripture. The Hebrew word “yaw-shah” translated “saved” in the old testament, and its new testament Greek synonym “sode’-zo” can best be defined by the word deliverance. Although it may go against the grain of man’s pride and self sufficiency, scripture presents a clear and logical answer for our helplessness. God’s answer is personal salvation and is foundational upon several truths of Scripture:
The first of these truths is that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 NIV). Adam’s fallen state of spiritual death is the inheritance of all mankind and results in the bondage of every person to sin – wrong thinking, wrong decisions, wrong actions. Sin is falling short of God’s perfection. Every person is on need of deliverance.
The second of these truths is that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23 NIV). Whereas every person earns the penalty of sin (spiritual separation from God in the present life and eternal separation from God after this life), salvation is a gift. A gift is something unearned, granted out of love and received out of gratitude.
The third of these truths is that “God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV). The gift of salvation was provided out of the unconditional love of God for every person. This gift of love was provided by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, God’s own Son on the cross of Calvary. This was a satisfactory sacrifice because Jesus, being God, was without sin. This sacrifice was proved to be sufficient to transform man from the state of death to spiritual life in Jesus Christ by his resurrection.
The fourth of these truths is that “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no-one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV). Salvation is by grace. Grace is something that is undeserved. When a person is caught wilfully breaking the law that person knows some penalty or punishment is due. If the prosecuting authority in some way states that he or she will be gracious in judgment, the guilty person immediately recognizes the hope of escaping the deserved punishment. Nevertheless, no true justice will excuse severe and wilful wrongdoing no matter what efforts are made by the guilty party to compensate. For example; saving a child from drowning can never compensate for premeditatedly taking the life of an adult. However, if the debt (penalty or punishment) has been paid then grace can rule and the undeserved can be acquitted. Salvation is the graciousness of God accepting the paid debt of sin by the sacrifice of God’s Son and justly pardoning the guilty.
After hearing the gospel explained, people often say, “You mean there’s nothing I can do to deserve it? That’s too easy.” It seems natural for people to object to the idea that God’s unmerited favour can be given so freely to unworthy sinners. Many find it difficult to trust a God who offers salvation as a free gift.
Salvation is free to man, but it cost God much. His own Son actually became man’s substitute. Where man is unable to change his standing before God through any self effort, Christ died in his place: “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). It is man’s responsibility to believe and receive the free gift of life: “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10).
The language of Scriptures knows nothing about a “cross of example”, or a “cross of martyrdom for the cause”. Although Calvary was a cross of grace, a cross of goodness, a cross of courage, a cross of suffering and a cross of perseverance, it was foremost a cross of substitution: “For he [God the Father] made him [Jesus the Son] to be sin for (in the place of) us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Salvation is free, but not cheap, and it is anyone’s for the asking ‘in faith’: “For whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). Charles Spurgeon, known as “the prince of preachers” once wrote “It will not save me to know that Christ is a Saviour; but it will save me to trust him to be my Saviour. I shall not be delivered from the wrath to come, by believing that his atonement is sufficient; but I shall be saved by making that atonement my trust, my refuge and my all.”
For each individual who has heard (or read) of God’s free offer of salvation by faith through the sacrificial death and glorious resurrection of Jesus, there is a window of opportunity. This is not an opportunity to prove oneself before God, sin prevents this; it is an opportunity to accept the gift of life from God. God has secured the means of spiritual rescue from present bondage and eternal loss by dealing with the penalty and the power of sin on the Cross of Calvary. It is now up to each individual to reach out by faith through prayer and receive that gift. It is this gift of life that is the foundation for deliverance not only from the eternal penalty of sin, but also from the present bondage of sin and weakness. The beauty of that expression of faith is that no one will ever be disappointed, Jesus’ promise is always kept: ” For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). Have you accepted God’s gift of salvation?